Workers start strike at Kumba

Thousands of workers at South Africa’s Kumba Iron Ore mine on Monday embarked on a strike for better wages after pay rise talks collapsed, a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) official said.

Kumba, a unit of global miner Anglo American, said last week the strike will not significantly affect its production due to sufficient iron ore stockpiles.

The NUM is demanding pay rises of between 7,5% and 10% on a one-year deal, depending on workers’ category, for its members at Kumba.

Kumba, the 10th-largest global iron ore producer, had offered wage increases of between 7% and 9,5% on a two-year deal.

“The strike has begun. But we are meeting Kumba [management] this morning, they have asked for an urgent meeting,” NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said, adding that there was no indication on whether Kumba would raise its offer.

The union said last week the strike of over 6 000 workers would affect Kumba’s Sishen, Kolomela and Thabazimbi operations.

Kumba, however, said NUM represents 2 670 members at the three units.

South Africa, the continent’s biggest economy, has been hit by a wave of strikes and strike threats, which have led to pay settlements well above inflation—at 3,5% in August—and raised fears that the cost of living will rise.

Meanwhile, a strike by NUM members at Northam Platinum entered its fifth week on Monday.

Northam, one of South Africa’s smaller platinum producers, had offered an 8,5% pay rise increase, below NUM’s demand of a 12% increment.

The NUM is also demanding R3 500 in housing allowance.

“The strike at Northam continues ... we are also meeting the management this morning,” Seshoka said.

A smaller union, Solidarity, last week signed a wage deal with Northam while NUM had rejected the offer.

The strike at the Zondereinde mine in South Africa was costing Northam 1 000 ounces per day in lost production of platinum group metals - Reuters

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